BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Ex-hostages demand UK inquiry
Saddam with hostages
Saddam appeared on state television with western hostages
A group of British airline passengers taken hostage by Saddam Hussein's regime on the eve of the first Gulf War want an independent public inquiry.

They say UK officials allowed the plane to stop and refuel in Kuwait so they could get spies in, despite knowing that Iraqi troops had already invaded.

John Major, who succeeded the then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher, has denied the claims.

The Britons were held by Saddam Hussein's regime for five months.

They were used as "human shields" during the war, alongside some American and French citizens who were also on board the British Airways flight.

I'm convinced the plane touched down essentially on government orders
John Chappell

Some of them met Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker to call for an independent public inquiry.

One of the former hostages, John Chappell, said he was "convinced" the plane had landed on government orders.

He said that during their captivity, some passengers had been exposed to mock executions and had to clean up human and animal faeces before settling in their living quarters.

Some had witnessed other people being killed, Mr Chappell, who was 14 at the time he was taken hostage, added.

'Terrible time'

He said: "It's something we have been living with for 16 years."

Mr Baker is demanding a public inquiry into the allegations.

He said: "It's quite clear to me that these people have gone through a terrible time."

Mr Baker added: "The least the government owes them is a proper explanation of why events happened like they did."

Left London on 1 August 1990 bound for India and Malaysia
Iraqi troops seized passengers and crew when it refuelled in Kuwait
They were taken to strategic locations in Kuwait and Iraq to prevent bombings
Hundreds of UK ex-pats used in same way
Freedom came five months later but many suffered post-traumatic stress

An independently-produced documentary claims flight BA149, with 350 passengers on board, could have been diverted while it was still in the air.

But the spying mission led officials to allow the plane's refuelling stop in Kuwait City en route to Madras - even though Iraqi troops had already invaded Kuwait and taken control.

The claims come from men who said they were involved in the mission and who have spoken about it on film for the first time.

'Not BA's fault'

Journalist Steven Davis said the plan was that the spies would disembark and the plane would go on without anyone knowing they had been on board. But the runway was bombed when the plane landed.

He said that of the nine spies on board, two were captured and used as human shields with the passengers.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam denied using hostages as human shields

The other seven escaped and they delivered vital intelligence which later helped the Allies when they invaded, he said.

Mr Davis said some hostages had been raped and others kept in conditions of "near starvation".

Twice French courts have ordered BA to pay compensation to the passengers who were taken hostage, in payouts totalling nearly 4m.

The airline denied responsibility, but the courts said the invasion had been highly predictable.

The British hostages were told by the House of Lords they had no right to claim damages.

The Foreign Office has said that the government's position has already been outlined to Parliament and it is not prepared to discuss intelligence matters.

Hundreds of ex-pats were in Kuwait when the invasion happened.

Saddam Hussein appeared on state television with 12 of them, but denied they were being used as human shields.

One of the hostages explains why he wants an inquiry


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific